Urban agriculture for Peterborough

dalstonroofpark07:55 Thursday 24th September 2015
BBC Radio Cambridgeshire

DOTTY MCLEOD: A new type of map has been designed for Peterborough to show you unusual areas where you could grow your own food. This project was part of the Harvest Festival which took place this weekend, saw thousands of people eating local produce in the city for free. My producer Kerry Devine went along to meet Mikey Tomkins, who’s designed the ‘edible city map‘.
MIKEY TOMKINS: I’ve worked from Stanley Rec over to the station, and over the river down to the Green Backyard, and along I think what used to be the old railway station at the Embankment here, which is now derelict where B&Q used to be.
KERRY DEVINE: OK. Let’s have a look at this map then. So you’ve actually drawn out a map. It looks very colourful, lots of pinks and greens. So I take it that the blue is the industry?
MIKEY TOMKINS: The blue are all the rooftop spaces for Peterborough. And I think what Peterborough could do, I think if any entrepreneurs are listening to this, there’s some very big rooftop spaces above Queensgate, top storey of car parks, the Market car parks. And coming down to towards the river there’s lots and lots and lots of open rooftop spaces. And what we found over the last few years say in North America is entrepreneurs renting out rooftop spaces and putting up big greenhouses, and producing food right above restaurants and shops and supermarkets.
KERRY DEVINE: Do you think Peterborough is missing a trick here?

MIKEY TOMKINS: I think Peterborough could do a lot with its rooftop spaces. We’ve been up to the Market car park, and as you start to look out across Queensgate you can see how much flat roof space is quite suitable for growing food. And then as you look down you’ve got down to the Embankment and down to the river, and you’ve got lots and lots of green open spaces as well. Stanley Rec. particularly I think could benefit from more involvement from people on a daily basis.
KERRY DEVINE: So a lot of people listening to this maybe .. maybe might go, this guy is mad. This will never happen. Has this happened before? Have you actually got this off the ground?
MIKEY TOMKINS: It’s not up to me really to get this off the ground, but I draw on the expertise I’ve had and the experiences I’ve had over the last ten years, seeing that a lot of cities globally are turning towards local food production, partly because of crisis, because of need, but also because they’ve realised the business and livelihood potential of food growing in cities.
KERRY DEVINE: How did you get into doing this, planning these maps?
MIKEY TOMKINS: I did a Masters in Architecture, and everyone was talking about putting solar panels on roofs, making buildings productive in terms of energy. And the one thing that I started to think about was that the one source of energy that we all need is food, within a building. So I was trying to think about how much food a building could produce, and then realised there was a whole area of research and practice called urban agriculture, where people have been researching this for quite a long time that buildings were quite capable, not only of having solar panels, on it, but also having gardens on it. It’s a slightly old idea. If you think back to the cottage garden where a home would have responsibility.
KERRY DEVINE: Would it cost anything to set this up on the rooftops?
MIKEY TOMKINS: It would cost quite a lot, but I think that the way it’s been developed in say New York, or in Canada, it’s been done by entrepreneurs. It’s been done by business people who go, there’s a whole other city here, above the city that we see at the moment. And we can put greenhouses on there. And from those spaces, with horticultural skills, you can produce volumes of food.
KERRY DEVINE: Are you hopeful that this will happen in Peterborough in the future?
MIKEY TOMKINS: I think it will have to happen in Peterborough in the future.
KERRY DEVINE: The breadbasket of the UK?
MIKEY TOMKINS: (LAUGHS) I’ve heard that a lot of times on these walks. Yes. No. Definitely. I think it will happen, on the basis that I think there’s a kind of cycle with food in cities. We saw it in the Second World War, where we responded to a crisis and realised that in the city we could grow a lot of our food. And I think that we’re probably approaching another crisis quite soon with climate change, where I think our food systems will be disrupted. And I think then we’ll start to realise that the city can take responsibility for its food.
DOTTY MCLEOD: Kerry Devine reporting there. What do you reckon ? Growing potatoes on the roof of Queensgate? Could it happen? Would it work?